I Am Samuel”: The perilous state of being a gay man in Kenya: Annual Human Rights Watch Film Festival Canada

I was aware that Africa does not take to gay men in a permissive sense. The Kenyan penal code has been interpreted by the Kenyan judiciary to constitute a serious crime including imprisonment for up to 14 years. Angry mobs can descend upon a gay man and beat him to death. Being a lawyer, the Kenyan penal code provision could possibly be interpreted in a different fashion but the prevailing hatred of gay men makes any liberal interpretation unlikely.

In this documentary we follow the life of Samuel and his partner Alex two people who are obviously in love but walk a tightrope where a plummet is entirely possible. With their pals they are happy, good natured and full of humour. Without this support network life can be dangerous if discovered and permitting this film to be made Samuel, Alex and their pals who have not had their faces blurred out have taken a great risk in letting themselves be identified.

Samuel is from the Kenyan countryside with his parents being poor farmers with conservative and Christian values. It takes great fortitude to admit to his father he is gay but he does so and his father disowns him while his mother is more accepting. Will his father relent?

This is at times a frightening story of a gay man in Kenya balancing his ease at being gay with the dis ease of that by the society he lives in.

Many of the gays in Canada and the United States ae too young to remember Toronto’s 1981 gay bathhouse raids and the 1969 Stonewall riots in New York against anti-gay police brutality but people were not as accepting just as in our North American past. Kenya, if it is willing to overcome its hatred, may have another 50 years to go before gay men can no longer live in fear.

I would have appreciated some explanation in the film of just why is Kenya so virulently homophobic.

Some beautiful footage of the Western Kenyan countryside may help alleviate your discomfort in watching this documentary.

The festival runs virtually February 18-22 and its films are available to Canadians at no charge but you will have to reserve tickets through Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema website.

You can see a clip and short interview here herehttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pNbSgKqhRAk&feature=emb_logo

Published by Robert K Stephen (CSW)

Robert K Stephen writes about food and drink, travel, and lifestyle issues. He is one of the few non-national writers to be certified as a wine specialist by the Society of Wine Educators, in Washington, DC. Robert was the first associate member of the Wine Writers’ Circle of Canada. He also holds a Mindfulness Certification from the University of Leiden and the University of Toronto. Be it Spanish cured meat, dried fruit, BBQ, or recycled bamboo place mats, Robert endeavours to escape the mundane, which is why he has established this publication. His motto is, "Have Story, Will Write."

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